Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game but won. Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game but lost.
Baseball is a funny game, Joe Garagiola liked to say, and he even wrote a book with that as its title.
Tigers pitcher Galarraga has been nothing but smiles since umpire Jim Joyce fleeced him in front of some 18,000-plus witnesses at Comerica Park Wednesday night, taking a perfect game from him in the biggest miscarriage of justice since Conan O’Brien got sodomized by Jay Leno and NBC.
Galarraga smiled the instant that Joyce called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe at first base, wrecking Galarraga’s perfect game after 26 hitters failed to reach that same bag.
There Galarraga was, holding the baseball that should have been on its way to Cooperstown the next morning, smiling as even Donald put his hands on his head in disbelief.
After the game, talking to reporters and the TV people, Galarraga smiled, almost involuntarily. He should have been filing a police report.
Deeper into the evening, Tigers manager Jim Leyland tapped his pitcher on the shoulder and said that Joyce, the perp himself, wanted to speak with Galarraga.
Moments later, Galarraga came back from that little encounter—smiling.
By the end of the night, Galarraga’s plight was all over the Internet. Even people who think a squeeze play is something done between lovers were taking sides in the matter.
The next morning, ABC’s “Good Morning America” was chatting about it. Even the four ladies of “The View” got into the act. The White House spoke out on it.
Until Wednesday night, Armando Galarraga was only known by Tigers fans, and not even by all of them. He was pitching in Toledo mere weeks ago. Then on Wednesday, the baseball gods plucked his name from the hat and look what happened.
When he came to the ballpark the next morning and again met with reporters, Galarraga was—you guessed it—smiling. From ear to ear. You started to wonder whether he knew something we didn’t.
He spoke of forgiveness and how nobody’s perfect and how he was just happy to be in the big leagues and how proud he was of his performance.
He should have been wearing a Hindu loin cloth, not a baseball uniform.
The nation was in an outrage over the events from Wednesday night. Joyce’s family received death threats, as once again this country proved how scummy its lowest forms can behave. Even normally rational folks called for Joyce’s firing. Others wanted Commissioner Bud Selig to overturn Joyce’s call and make the world right again.
Instant replay was called for like Old King Cole demanding his pipe and his fiddlers three.
Everyone was out of sorts except for the guy who was victimized—Galarraga.
General Motors presented Galarraga with a Chevy Corvette before Thursday’s game, and then he REALLY smiled. Finally, a reason!
Then, acting on a gesture suggested by Leyland that ramped up my respect for the manager immensely, Galarraga delivered the lineup card to the umpires. Joyce, assigned to home plate that day, couldn’t keep the tears from flowing.
After the game, after Selig’s office announced—unsurprisingly—that Joyce’s call would stand and the perfect game would, indeed, only exist in our minds, Galarraga once again met up with reporters.
He was still smiling.
Maybe the thing Armando Galarraga knew that we didn’t—until now—was that by taking the high road, his story would be more lasting and have way more impact on the game than had he joined us in our apoplexy.
Someone did a great job with that kid.
I wrote the day after the imperfection that had Joyce made that call when Jack Morris was pitching, Jack would be behind bars and Joyce’s next of kin would be notified.
Or maybe Galarraga was grasping the situation at its simplest level: he and his team won the baseball game. It was his first complete game in the big leagues. That’s like a guy’s first date being with Jennifer Aniston.
Galarraga and the Tigers won the game Wednesday night—and the team needed a win in the worst way, having dropped eight of its last ten games.
Haddix, who I referenced way back at the beginning of this column, wasn’t so blessed.
Harvey Haddix was a lefty of moderate ability who pitched 14 years in the big leagues, from 1952-65. He won 20 games in his first full season, but for the most part he was average.
Except for May 26, 1959.
Haddix’s Pittsburgh Pirates were in Milwaukee to take on the Braves. It was a Tuesday night, the day after Memorial Day was celebrated around the country. It was appropriate, for what happened that evening would forever be etched in baseball history.
Haddix, like Galarraga on Wednesday night, didn’t do anything fancy—except retire batter after batter.
1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.
As Haddix kept setting the Braves down in order, his own team wasn’t doing much better. Milwaukee’s Lew Burdette was matching Haddix goose egg for goose egg. Burdette wasn’t perfect, but he was tossing a shutout, too.
Haddix was perfect through six innings, then seven, then eight.
But the Pirates still hadn’t scored off Burdette.
In the bottom of the ninth, the game still scoreless, Haddix set the Braves down, 1-2-3. He had thrown a perfect game.
But the game wasn’t over.
I wonder if Haddix paced the dugout, screaming, “What does a guy have to do to get a WIN around here?!”
The game droned on. Burdette was still on the hill, keeping the Pirates scoreless, though in an imperfect way; he was surrendering hits, but no walks and no runs.
Through 12 innings—TWELVE—Haddix was perfect. Thirty-six batters up, thirty-six down.
He wasn’t pitching against chopped liver, either; the Braves’ lineup included Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, and Del Crandall. If you don’t know all the names, trust me—it was a Little Murderer’s Row.
Burdette, unbelievably, pitched his 13th scoreless inning for the Braves. He had surrendered 12 hits, but no walks and no runs.
Haddix worked on his 37th hitter, Felix Mantilla, who reached base on an error. The perfect game was gone. But not the no-hitter, and not the win.
Mathews sacrificed Mantilla to second. An intentional walk was issued to Aaron.
Then Adcock drove a Haddix pitch into deep left center field for the Braves’ only hit. Mantilla scored. Game over.
Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings but lost.
There’s a photo of Haddix leaving the mound, being consoled by Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh.
Haddix wasn’t smiling.